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Welcome to the Croatian Naive Art blog! Here, we'll discuss all things related to reverse painting on glass, including interesting stories about the artists, how we personally gathered these paintings over the years, and how they can be used as an investment.

Art as an Investment

First bit of advice; don’t go crazy. 

Second, take off the blinders and have an open mind. 

Look, people have been investing in art for centuries either by choice or by accident. When investing by choice, the collector would purchase art he or she thought was by an exceptional artist and undervalued, hang it on a prominent wall to be seen and enjoyed every day and just wait for appreciation; from those that saw the painting and from the market. When investing by accident, the collector did exactly the same, except the part that was missing was the expectation of market appreciation. That came later by “accident.”

I hope you have seen the play or read the book “Alice B”, about the lives of Alice B. Tolkas and Gertrude Stein as expatriate Americans in Europe that helped support up and coming local artists by purchasing their art. Well, to make a long story short, they had bought enough paintings to fill walls from the likes of Cezanne, Picasso, Gauguin and others that all turned into the greatest of the greats. As Alice and Gertrude aged and needed money to meet their living expenses, they would periodically sell off one of their paintings and, as a result, were able to live a pretty comfortable lifestyle in their later years! 

The question arises today as to whether or not they were just lucky or could this same strategy still be used today? It is my assertion that this strategy could still be used today. Now, Alice and Gertrude didn’t really purchase their art so they would have something of value to sell off in their later years, so in essence they were some of those that invested in art by accident; however, what they accomplished can still be done today and perhaps with greater ease and on purpose!

I have this theory about collecting and investing in art that goes something like:

MY UNIQUE PHILOSOPHY OF INVESTMENT ART

It is rather simple. I believe that there are many newly emerging countries weather coming out from under communistic or totalitarian rule (such as many of the countries in Eastern Europe) or those attempting to emerge from third world status like those in the deepest and most remote parts of Africa and Asia, that have their own unique forms of art as well as their “Great Masters” of this art (along with up and coming Masters) whom are little known to the rest of the world and that, my friends, is the key. They are little known to the rest of the world. Because of this, those that do know have two unique opportunities:

The opportunity to collect unusual and rare art from “The Masters” or up and coming artists of this genre for their own personal collections at very reasonable prices and

The opportunity that comes from having the awareness that these unique situations exist, to zero in on a small segment of the art world and become an “expert” of sorts on a particular niche for investment purposes.  

That’s it! That’s My Philosophy of Investment Art. 

“NICHE ART FROM EMERGING NATIONS!”

So much art; so little time. It would be almost impossible for the average person to study every form of world art in order to become well enough informed to be able to make sound collecting and investment decisions, but it certainly is possible to study one small, precise, niche with a laser-like focus and feel relatively comfortable that one has gained enough knowledge of that particular niche to make informed decisions. That’s what I do. That is what I do in only one small, precise, niche and with a laser-like focus. That niche is called:

CROATIAN NAÏVE ART.

More specifically, Croatian Naïve paintings the majority of that niche being paintings of what are called “reverse oil on glass.” There are some artists in this genre that do or have done paintings on canvas, but even though I collect some of those as well, they are by far in the minority. 

CROATIAN NAÏVE REVERSE OIL PAINTINGS ON GLASS.
THAT’S THE NICHE! 

I do this primarily because I have fallen in love with the art; because I want to collect it. Because I think it is beautiful. Because it is at times quaint, evokes nostalgia, is mysterious, beautiful, primitive, superlative and at times fantastical. Because I feel that there have never before been (perhaps in the history of mankind!) so many talented artists contributing to an artistic genre gathered in such a small geographical area. Because I not only get enjoyment from collecting it, but I also see tremendous investment opportunity. What I’m telling you here is:

YOU CAN LEARN ENOUGH ABOUT CROATIAN NAÏVE ART TO FEEL COMFORTABLE ABOUT COLLECTING AND INVESTING IN IT.

CROATIAN NAÏVE PAINTINGS OF “REVERSE OIL ON GLASS.”

O.K. So Croatian naïve paintings of “oil on glass” is the niche. So what is Croatian Naïve Art and what’s the big deal with painting on glass? Well, that’s a little tougher to explain, but I’ll do my best while attempting to keep it simple. 

Most of these artists came from and come from a region of what was once a part of Yugoslavia (now Croatia) called Podravina and many from a small town in the North on the River Drava called Hlebine, 20 KM from Zagreb the capitol. 

To make a long story short, the artist Krsto Hegedusic found two young farmers in the late 1920s (Ivan Generalic and Franjo Mraz) painting in Hlebine and doing a very nice job given the fact that they were basically self-taught. He eventually introduced them to and taught them the technique of painting on the reverse side of glass in order that the piece could be viewed through the glass. Well, the intricacies of this novel technique can only be imagined by the layman. The signature had to go on early in the painting’s life otherwise it would not be there. All of the main parts of the piece needed to be placed on the glass first so that afterward there would be nothing covered up by the final touches of the painting. Also, you must realize, the painting was going to show to the viewer in the exact reverse from the artists rendering. 

Well, there is a history of about 90 years of this form of art that I will not get deeply into. Suffice it to be said that these artists from “The Hlebine School” in the early stages painted what might be called social protest art because of the harsh (to say the least) injustices  placed on the peasants from an overly repressive dictatorial government. They painted anti-government scenes. Actually, for a period of about 7 years when it was forbidden to create this form of art, the artists were banned and only the bravest of them continued to paint in what could be called an underground movement.

Krsto Hegedusic thought that this form of “social protest” art should be the reason for the art, while the young artists from Hlebine decided that this was not the only thing that should be painted. There were other things to paint and Generalic, Mraz and others began painting them. They painted what they knew: farm scenes, winter scenes and life in general in the countryside of Podravina. Eventually there came a split between Hegedusic and the Hlebine School painters, which by the way had grown to include many more than simply Generalic and Marz and they basically parted ways with Hegedusic. Not meaning to skip a lot of history, but for the sake of brevity, I will bring us up to the present.

Today, there are more than 100 of these artists of the Croatian Naïve, painting mostly oil on glass and oh so many of them are exceptionally talented! The topics covered and individual styles vary much more than they did in the infancy of this movement, and to be really frank with you I personally feel that the caliber of art in general has gotten better with the passing of time. 

You can collect the newer generations of these artists, huge second and third generations of extremely talented artists, without spending a fortune and while enjoying the heck out of their paintings (there is nothing else quite like them in the world!) you will stand a good chance that the works of the best will appreciate in value over the years. I’m not going to begin naming them all, but as you begin your study of Croatian Naïve Art you will see for yourselves.     

Those whom are called the Masters of the movement, The Four Ivans: Ivan Generalic, Ivan Rabuzin, Ivan Vecenaj and Ivan Lackovic as well as Mijo Kovacic, Mirko Virius, Franjo Filipovic, Franjo Klopotan, Dragan Gazi, Josip Generalic (Ivan’s son) and perhaps a few others are shoe-ins for real appreciation in value albeit considerably more expensive than the newer generations. Much more expensive, but still affordable for many. That’s what’s great about this thing I call “niche art from emerging nations.” They are all still affordable! 

It doesn’t really have to be Croatian Naïve Art as I said in the beginning, because there are many countries where this same thing is happening with their art because of the circumstances of their locality. Actually, I don’t pay any attention to the other countries because I neither have the time nor the inclination to do so. I have found where I want to be. I have made, am making and will continue to make a study of this one particular niche with what I like to call a “laser-like focus.”